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U.S. Investigation AT & T and Verizon Over Wireless Collusion Claim



AT & T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the US. A technology that facilitates the transfer of carriers could lead to more revenue and fewer subscribers for them.

The investigation shows that the Ministry of Justice's antitrust head, Makan Delrahim, has put pressure to crack the opaque world of intellectual property IP, standards. He said the Ministry of Justice is considering possible coordination in organizations that set standards that could harm competition.

"In the context of antitrust and intellectual property, we will be inclined to investigate and enforce when we see evidence of collusive behavior for the purpose of fixing prices or excluding certain competitors or products," Delrahim said in a speech this month at a conference in Washington. He warned that competitors who have partnered with organizations engaged in cartel formation are developing "cartel-like behavior".

At the same time, the Department of Justice is suing AT & T for blocking its $ 17.5 billion merger with Time Warner. Delrahim said the deal will weigh on competition and lead to higher prices for cable customers. AT & T and Time Warner have vehemently denied the allegations in a federal trial expected to end this month.

At present, most mobile phones use SIM cards that contain unique identifying information about a user and into which devices, ie the phones, can be inserted. People usually have to buy a new SIM card when changing the aircraft carrier.

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The Ministry of Justice's antitrust law chief, Makan Delrahim, has vowed to test industry standards that he believes could harm competition.

Credit
Stephen Voss for the New York Times

eSIM technology, introduced in early 2016, is embedded in mobile phones and other devices, so people no longer need SIM cards.

eSIM technology is supported by gadget manufacturers such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as multiple wireless carriers worldwide and in the United States. For example, Apple Watch 3, Google Pixel 2 Smartphone, and Microsoft Surface have eSIM capabilities. The technology would make it easier for people to use local carriers when traveling internationally, and free up space in devices that could be used for other technologies, such as larger processors and batteries.

The urge of the big carriers to limit the flexibility of eSIM runs as opposed to a move in which consumers were given more flexibility to move from carrier to carrier. Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, at the end of 2013, the mobile industry agreed that users could take devices from a given network without penalty once the devices were fully paid.

After the formal complaints against AT & T and Verizon had been filed, several device manufacturers and other wireless companies voiced similar concerns to the agency over the actions of carriers around eSIM, said four investigators familiar with the investigation. The investigation could also include other major US carriers, another person said.

"The measures would limit consumer choice and harm competition," said Ferras Vinh, Political Expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology

private meeting of a task force called GSMA North America This year, AT & T and Verizon pushed Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge, a not-for-profit consumer group, was briefed on the ability to lock phones into their networks and circumvent the purpose of eSIM technology. Verizon said it must be able to lock phones to prevent theft and fraud.

"There is a constant problem with organizations that set industry standards, which on the one hand allow the industry to come together to achieve efficiency can be very anticompetitive and secretive," said Mr. Feld.

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